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In area football, it’s the year of the coach

Columnist Jeff Findley said in Saturday’s newspaper that 2008 would be remembered as a history-making year, but, as far as local high school football is concerned, it might instead be remembered as the year of the impressive coaching job.

At Jemison, Brad Abbott turned what could have been a transition year into his first win over rival Chilton County High (and the program’s first in that series since 2003). After one more regular season game, the Panthers will turn their attention to another monkey on their back as they try to advance past the opening round of the playoffs for the first time since 2000.

Isabella this season has continued its progress under second-year coach Lanny Jones. It’s difficult to fathom that the Mustangs have a chance to finish 8-2 – if they can defeat Lamar County High this week – only two years removed from a winless season.

Brian Carter’s tenure at CCHS got off to a rocky start as the Tigers lost their first five games, but Carter was able to right the ship and produce three consecutive wins. That streak ended with a 26-16 loss at Greenville on Friday, but Chilton is still headed to the playoffs regardless of the outcome of their final regular season game.

Maplesville this year isn’t the same team it was the past two seasons, when the Red Devils made the semifinal round of the playoffs, but the drop-off was expected because of the number of starters lost to graduation. But the fact that the Devils have won six games and will make the playoffs is a testament to the kind of program Brent Hubbert has built on the western end of the county. Most of the key Devils are sophomores and freshmen, so watch out for Maplesville, again, in the next couple of years.

As good of a job as the coaches in Chilton County have done, the performances of their counterparts just across the county line might be even better. Kyle Glover at Marbury and Kevin LeSueur at Billingsley have fielded teams that have improved visibly over the course of the season – exactly what football teams are supposed to do.

Six of Glover’s Bulldogs from last year’s 10-2 squad are now playing collegiately, and that was evident as this year’s team struggled to an 0-3 record out of the gate. The ‘Dogs have recovered nicely, however, and, with a 20-17 win over perennial power Montgomery Academy on Friday night coupled with a B.B. Comer win over Lafayette, are in the playoffs again.

When Billingsley lost 40-20 to rival Maplesville to open the season, it looked like the Bears were headed toward another so-so season. But other than a 1-point loss to highly-ranked and 9-0 Linden that would have been a win if not for some missed point-after tries, Billingsley has been unbeatable.

You can bet on one thing: No one wants to see the Bears in the playoffs.